Even with raises, physician finances suffering

Despite relatively healthy trends in physician compensation, doctors and their practices continue to struggle financially, according to the American Medical Group Association (AMGA), as well as separate research from QuantiaMD.

The good news for physicians, according to the latest AMGA compensation survey, is that the majority of physicians (79 percent) enjoyed pay increases in 2011, with the average increase at nearly 3 percent. Specifically, primary care specialties got about a 4 percent raise in 2011, while other medical specialties averaged a 2.8 percent increase and surgical specialties got a 3.4 percent boost. But as with last year's survey, AMGA found that many medical groups have continued to operate in the red. On average, groups suffered a -$1,235 per physician operating margin, according to an AMGA announcement.

So it's of little surprise, then, that the newest monthly Physician Wellbeing Index from QuantiaMD found that 26 percent of primary care physicians report poor financial health. Although the index found a two-point increase in physicians' overall health, physician financial health stood out as being lower than respondents' physical, mental and social health. The top reason physicians cited for financial struggles was insufficient income, with 81 percent reporting profits were down and 43 percent claiming to have trouble covering expenses. And employed physicians aren't necessarily sheltered from the strain, the survey found, with 49 percent of employed PCPs reporting they hadn't had a salary raise in two years and 18 percent saying they've had their salaries cut.

According to Mike Paskavitz, editor in chief of QuantiaMD, factors such as flat or dropping reimbursement rates, rising overhead and pressure to adopt new technology, if not addressed, will make it increasingly difficult to make up for the shortage of primary care doctors in the United States, Healthcare Finance News reported.

To learn more:
- read the article from Healthcare Finance News
- view the QuantiaMD survey
- see the article from ModernMedicine
- see the press release from AMGA